For over 20 years, Jon Tierney was one of the premier singer-songwriters in Rhode Island with a soulful voice that was a force and his ability to turn a cover into an original.
Whether he was with his backing band The Truth or by himself on stage with a guitar in his hand and a microphone in front of him, the Riverside native had a knack for captivating whoever was in the room.
One weekly event you could usually catch him at was a music showcase called “Dropout Night,” which he co-hosted with his friend Kris Hansen. It was pretty much a gathering of local musicians performing sets throughout the night. It started initially at The Green Room at Snookers when it was located at 145 Clifford St. in Providence, then moved to The Apartment when it was at 373 Richmond St. in the same city. Then the event moved to The Spot when it was a few blocks up at 101 Richmond St., and then it had its last days at The Met at 1005 Main St. in Pawtucket.
In December of last year, Tierney sadly passed away at the age of 45. There will be one last “Dropout Night” happening in his honor at The Parlour, located at 1119 North Main St. in Providence, on Sept. 25 starting at 6 p.m.
Along with being a talented musician, Tierney was a great friend to many in the local music scene. He was the type of guy with a big heart who would give it to you straight no matter what. He also could make you laugh all night long with the jokes and stories he would tell.
“Jon was my best friend for 27 years,” Hansen says. “We played countless shows together. When I started ‘Dropout Night’ and took Jon on for a co-host back in 2006, I had no idea it would carry us for the next 15 years. ‘Dropout Night’ is a laid back night of great friends, great music and stories to make you laugh or cry. It is spontaneous and an electrifying dive into collaboration, it is getting loose with good friends. This Saturday will be no different. Some of us will be playing some of Jon’s tunes while some will be playing their best music. This is an end to an era.”
Hansen will be performing a few songs and so will Jay Berndt, Spogga, Nicky Pouliot, Brad T. O’Brien, Chris Rosenquest, Christian Caldarone, The Parlour’s owner Gregory Rourke, Matty Odabashian, Nate Cozzolino, Becca Neveu, Steven Paiva, Steve Donovan and Josh Willis while fronting the Black Sabbath cover trio Green Sabbath. The show will be raising money to master and distribute Tierney’s vast catalogue to make his music available to stream and purchase on all platforms.
“I met Jon Tierney circa 1995,” Willis, a Cranston native, mentions about how they met. “We were introduced by Jeff Danielian, who is involved with The Collaborative 02885 in Warren, and started hanging out regularly. I’d go to his house and we would sit in his garage smoking Old Gold, sneaking 40s of Olde English, and he would pour out his music to me. He is the most prolific songwriter of our time and I don’t say that lightly. Him and Kris Hansen are both the reason I started playing percussion and then picked up the guitar. Our lives took us on different paths, but Jon and I always stayed in touch, but we kept missing each other these last few years and I regret not seeing him before he passed.”
He continues: “That’s why when Adam Newell from Green Sabbath, who Kris brought on board for Jon’s memorial show, asked me to sing, I jumped at the opportunity. Singing Jon’s songs is as close to spending time with him as I’ll get, and then I get to share that with old friends and new fans. I’ve known the members of Green Sabbath for over a decade and performed with all of them more times than I can count. It just made sense to team up with them. They exude talent and they’re true musical mercenaries. It’s been an honor so far and I’m looking forward to the show on Saturday.”
One special element of “Dropout Night” is how both Tierney and Hansen encouraged up-and-comers to take the stage and perform. It gave others the confidence to show their music in front of strangers who by the end of the evening became new friends.
“Kris Hansen and Jon Tierney are the reason I started to feel more comfortable on stage, all because of ‘Dropout Night,’” Neveu adds. “I had a chance to play a show with Jon and he came up to me telling me he absolutely loved my set and that brought butterflies to my heart. He was such a kind human being and I wish I got the opportunity to get to know him more than I do. He was that stage presence that wrote these beautifully sad songs that influenced the hell out of my stage performances and writing style today. Man, I miss him.”
Whether you knew Tierney or not, this Saturday at The Parlour will be a great opportunity to see the staples of Rhode Island’s music community and some of the scene’s current primary talents on the same stage. It’s all for a great guy’s legacy and impact he left on people either with his music, by being himself or both.
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